The age of particular wild game can be just as important as the difference between lamb and mutton.
The most renowned example is the difference in taste between a young grouse and an old grouse. The difference in taste is so dramatic it even changes the price of grouse. They are both tasty but it takes different cooking techniques to fulfil their potential. A young grouse is succulent, fresh and tender; perfect for a quick roast covered in strips of bacon, whereas the older grouse you can find to be tougher but more flavoursome and therefore a casserole will soon tenderise it and make it succulent.
This is the same with the majority of other wild game, all you have to do is learn the difference the old and the young. Here is our definitive list – open to discussion:
Size does not count when aging a grouse for a young one can be just as heavy and large as an old. However there are a few tell-tale signs, for instance, if you squeeze the end of a young grouse’s beak the skull will crush with ease compared to an older beak. Furthermore when you spread the wing of the grouse out, the feathers on the old grouse will be rounded at the end, compared to pointed in the young.
When it comes to deer, if you want a quick method then look no further than the antlers, however as this is not always available you have to use other methods. One trusted method is looking at their back and the amount of curvature along their spine. Younger deer hold their body higher and are generally sprightlier, whereas older deer lose the tightness letting their back sag and have a larger gait. Obviously once shot you are able to look at the teeth to confirm your age estimate, and hence learn for future stalks.
The easiest and quickest way of aging a pheasant is to measure their spurs. A young pheasant will have spurs which are light in colour, soft to touch and relatively blunt end, whereas an older pheasant the spurs are much darker, harder and sharp.
We hope this is of some help to you, and that with a bit of practice you can start to see the differences in taste when it comes to age. If you have anything to add to this article please do let us know via email [email protected]